The 1999 ARRL DX Contest
I went into this contest without any high hopes. After all, the ionosphere was just starting to recover from a major geomagnetic storm that saw the A index rise into the 60's and a K index that reached at least 7. This seemed to me to be a recipe for a DX contest that consisted of working Caribbean and South American stations plus a few of the super contest stations in Europe.
Since this was mid-February, the Sun would be setting over an hour later than it did in late November at the time of the CQWW DX contest. That means that 20 and perhaps 15 meters would still be open at the start of the contest at 0000Z on Saturday.
I started out on 15M, and found a few of the Caribbean DX-peditions still coming through well. Then it was on to 20M to find the same thing there. They all had the usual start of contest pileups and I only managed to work 4 stations. After a half hour I gave it up for a while.
I put in another half hour at 0500Z and worked another handful of stations on 40M, all in the Caribbean and Central America. Another brief stint at 1100Z on 40M yielded the same results.
At least I worked HC8N on 40M for a new band country, one of only four that I would get in the contest.
At 1415Z I started my contesting in earnest. At the start it looked like more Caribbean and Central/South Americans were going to be about all I would work. Finally for my 19th QSO I worked OH1EH for my first EU station. Not unusual, because I can usually work the Scandinavians no matter what the conditions are. This was on 15M. Shortly after that, I worked UA3RAR, RW2F, and RU1A. Looks like the Russian pipeline is open. I figured if 15 was open so far into EU, then 10M was probably good as well.
My journey to 10M proved me right. Wouldn't you know it, the first station I worked on 10 was RU1A. Two consecutive QSO's with RU1A. An hour on 10M gave me 13 stations, mostly EU, but with some of the Caribbean stations thrown in for good measure. The contacts didn't come easy as conditions weren't all that good plus many of the stations still had big pileups.
Back to 15M again with about the same results as my excursion to 10M. A couple of the contacts were new prefixes for me - OH4RH and IY4W. I also snared OH0JJS for another Aland Island contact. I remember when I would have given anything to work the Alands, now they are fairly commonplace for me.
It's now 1620Z and I have 53 QSO's. Not too bad a start. When I considered the conditions just before the test, I thought I'd be lucky to get 150 QSO's for the whole test. Now I'm thinking that I might have a shot at making the 300 QSO's that I had set as a goal long before the contest started.
A return to 10M netted several more QSO's including probably my best catch of the contest - J47XHC which was not only a new prefix, but a new band country. Very strong signals from Greece - I worked him with just a single call. That was up in the Novice segment of the band somewhat away from the bigger pileups lower in frequency. As I was tuning back down the band, I thought I heard a 5Z so I stopped to see just what it was. It turned out to be HZ1HZ, and he was even stronger than the Greek station. I parked on that frequency intending to work him no matter how long it took as that would be an overall new country for me. He was so strong I figured I'd have no problem working him, but he must have had a big pileup because I never got him, and finally moved on. That was my first of only two disappointments in the contest.
The 1700Z hour proved to be my best hour ever in a DX contest. 15M was working just right for me, and I worked 27 stations, mostly in EU and the Caribbean. Included in that hour was the Belgian contest prefix of OT9 for 1999. I've worked them all now from OT5 through OT9. I wonder what they have in mind for 2000? When I started the 1700Z hour, I was coming from 10M where I just worked XA5T. As I did with RU1A earlier, I had 2 in a row with XA5T as he was the first 15M QSO. Also I neglected to tune my final amp for 15M, and I actually worked XA5T with just 600 mW.
With 92 QSO's now logged, I took a break for an hour or so to do some other things around the house. Remember, the amateur is Balanced. When I came back, 15M was still open to EU, so I worked a few more before trying 20M. For me, 20M never was that good on Saturday. I did have a pipeline into Spain and picked up 9 of them quite easily. Some band hopping provided me with KH7R on 10M for Oceania. Now I needed AF and AS for my weekend WAC, something I now try to get in each DX contest I enter. Africa came at 2311Z with EA8/DJ1OJ who turned out to be the only AF I worked in the test. Only heard one other AF, in fact - a TZ near the end of the test. Now I wondered if I could get AS to finish the WAC. The high latitude paths were definitely not any good in the wake of the major geomagnetic storm. I didn't hear a single JA in the contest, and only a few Asiatic Russians. Finally at 0225Z, I found a weak fluttery RZ9UA on 20M, and figured I could work him since I can usually work that area of the world even when their signals are not all that strong. After about 5 or 6 calls, I finally got him for my weekend WAC.
Shortly after that I went to 40M to try for some Caribbean stations. I worked a few of them. I noticed some EU stations had pretty good signals, but I had been having so much trouble working EU on 40M I almost decided to not even try. However, I got S58A on my first call to him, and a little later I also worked YU7BW after quite a struggle. I figured it was too much trouble and too hard to work any more. Besides, I hated to slow them up trying to copy my info. Instead I went to 80. Didn't find much there that was workable for my low short wire antenna. I worked C6AKQ, then quit for the night after a short time on 20M where I worked KH6RS and KH7R.
I thought I'd go to bed early and get up early to catch the high bands just as they were opening to EU. I got up at 1215Z and that was indeed just what was happening. The bands were waking up just as I was. I started Sunday with 152 QSO's logged. A good day could take me to my goal of 300. The 1200Z hour added 11 QSO's including new prefix ZV8O on 20M. 14 more in the 1300Z hour took me to 177 QSO's. It would be touch and go to hit 300. The highlight for me in the 1300Z hour was G4BUO on 15M taking time to tell me to try him on 10M. I figure most of the stations I work have a tough enough time just copying me, and I enjoy it when someone takes time to talk a bit with me.
The 1400Z hour was spent all on 10M. I worked 28 stations to break my recently set record of 27 in an hour in a DX contest. I had one of those "Work them once, and then they'll be easy" deals. After chasing EW8EW for quite a while, I finally got him for a new multiplier. The very next minute I got EW2AA. Strange how that works.
From 1305Z till 1720Z every station I worked was a European. 70 straight EU QSO's. That string was broken when I worked KH7R on 15M. Shortly after that came my only KL7 as I got KL7RA on 15M. I never did work KL7Y which is unusual for a contest. I only heard him one time on 20M, rather weak and fluttery.
It's now 1900Z and 248 QSO's. Things were really slowing down. The majority of the stations I'm hearing now are ones I've already worked. I tune slowly across 20M, stopping to call each weak EU signal I hear that I haven't worked. Surprisingly I can work each one easily even though I'm not hearing them all that well. At other times in the contest, I can't even get the super strong signals to hear me even when they have no pileups at all. Just one of the many quirks of radio wave propagation, I guess.
At 1926Z, a quick check of 10M shows GM7R as the only EU signal I can hear there. I work him easily. Checks of 15M yield a couple more EU stations, but now it's mostly chasing the weak ones on 20M. Slowly I edge my way to 283 QSO's by 2330Z. Looks like I'm going to fall short of my goal of 300 QSO's. Maybe 15M has a good opening to Argentina as it often does at the end of the ARRL DX contest. This year was no exception. I worked 6 LU's on 15 along with 3E1CW and WP3R, but that was it. I wound up 9 QSO's short of my goal, my second disappointment of the contest.
All in all, this was my best DX contest ever. Oh, I did have a few more QSO's in the CQWW back in November, but several of those were W/VE QSO's for multipliers. All 291 QSO's in this contest were true DX. I worked 61 countries in all continents. 141 multipliers. 123,093 points. 19.5 hours operated.
My best band was 15M with 100 QSO's - 10M had 96 - 20M with 79 was next - finally came 40M with 15 and 80M with 1.